The online world can be lucrative but it is certainly very risky, when it comes to payment. Practically all freelance translators are familiar with the frustration of spending too much time and effort collecting fees for translation.
There is no business without risk. However, risk can be assessed and kept within an acceptable range. Here are some steps to follow:
1. Before accepting a job, you have to properly research the agency and examine its payment habits. You can check the ProZ.com Blue Board, visit the agency's website and see if it provides all necessary contact information. Another bad sign is a free e-mail address. Pay attention to the agency's memberships in professional associations. An agency should be registered with its national chamber of commerce and have a registration number.
2.After completing the job and delivering it to the client, you may still experience delays of payment. There are many “acceptable” reasons for that: (i) Poor organization at the translation agency. Usually more that one person are involved in placing translation assignments, approving payments, and executing payments. In some cases, there may be poor communication between these persons, with may result in payment delay; (ii) Poor communication, and (iii) Mistakes in the bank transfer process.
Sometimes, however, payment delay means the agency doesn’t want to pay. Signs indicating an attempt at non-payment include: (i) The agency does not respond to your repeated e-mail or fax reminders (ii) The agency suddenly stops answering your phone calls and (iii) The agency says the payment was made, but does not provide banking confirmation of the fund transfer when you request it.
In that case, you should make the client understand that they have no chance of getting away with non-payment. Here some practices to follow:
1. after a 3 day delay of payment—a polite reminder by e-mail
2. 10 day delay—a polite reminder by fax
3. 20 days—a telephone call
4. 30 days—a fax/snail-mail with a polite promise of exposure on the worldwide translation scene and legal procedures.
When you are sure you are facing a case of non-payment, you should send a politely worded list of further actions you will take for collection. This list is a very effective collection tool, but you should use it only if you are 100% sure of the malicious nature of the problem. This is your ultimate weapon, so use it discretely.
This list of collection actions can include very polite assurances to expose the non-payer before its clients, its national chamber of commerce, its national association of translators/translation agencies, etc.
1. Concentrate your efforts on checking the reliability of a client (after receipt of a contract or but before doing the job), not on collection after problems begin.
2. When collecting your debts, be polite, flexible and persistent. To preserve your share of the market, do not call in the big guns unless absolutely necessary.
3. Poor communication and organization of the payment process are much more common problems in translation agencies than malicious attempts at non-payment.